LAS VEGAS (AP) – The best evidence the boss was around was the white Ferrari 458 Spider parked in front between two equally white Rolls Royces, top off and gleaming in the late afternoon sun. While Floyd Mayweather Jr. worked inside, a man with a spray bottle and cloth worked to make sure there wasn’t an offending particle of dust on the ride the fighter would pilot home.
This was a relatively light day of work at the gym Mayweather owns in this city’s faux Chinatown just west of the famous Las Vegas Strip. Light, that is, unless you consider that Mayweather would spar four six-minute rounds with a tough young lefty, barely stopping for a few breaths between rounds.
Five weeks before his insanely rich date with Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather was already at fight weight, and pretty close to fight condition. He taunted Maurice Lee in the opening salvos, urging him to open up and give him a good scrap.
“Let’s see,” Mayweather said from behind his headgear, pushing a hard jab at Lee. “Let’s see what you got.”
The 23-year-old Lee, 4-0 as a pro, grew up idolizing Mayweather and had been tentative in their first sparring session. Not this time, though, as he traded with the undefeated champion, trying to emulate the pressure that Pacquiao will almost certainly try to put on Mayweather in the May 2 fight.
“I was just cracking him today,” Lee said. “That’s what they want to get him ready.”
Around the gym they urged Mayweather on like it was the night of the fight itself. Friends and family sat in three orderly rows of chairs near the door, while others gathered around the ring. Burly guards circled around the ring warning that anyone who pulled a phone out to take pictures or video would be tossed.
Earning $180 million or so for 36 minutes of work isn’t as easy as it sounds, even for the man generally considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. At the age of 38, Mayweather may have slowed just a bit in the ring, but his preparation never slows.
A few days earlier he had been in the gym until 11 at night, working on things he will need against Pacquiao. There’s never a set schedule, though late afternoon sparring and middle of the night runs have always been a constant in any Mayweather camp.
But this isn’t just any Mayweather camp. He’s fought for big money before, sure, but never this big. And this will be against Pacquiao, the one man boxing fans have clamored for Mayweather to fight for the last five years.
“Everyone talks about the money, the money, the money,” Mayweather said later, sitting on a bench in his dressing room. “I want the fight to live up to the magnitude that it is. That’s what it is really about.”
If it is the money everyone talks about, it’s mostly Mayweather’s fault. He’s the one who invented the Money May persona that got people to buy his fights just in hopes of seeing him lose, and he’s the one who still likes to show off the fleet of cars, private jets and courtside seats at NBA games bought with the many millions he has already made in the ring.
That persona is gone for this fight, replaced by one of a studious businessman who talks softly and prepares hard for the fight that could define his career. The cars are outside, but he’s not flashing wads of cash with onetime BFF 50 Cent or watching a group of women smoke marijuana (he claims it was fake) on Showtime as he did before his last fight with Marcos Maidana.
“It’s all about maturity,” Mayweather says. “Everyone knows I built an empire by communicating in a certain way. But it was just business moves as far as communicating and talking on camera, doing what I needed to do by being flashy and flamboyant. I gave you the Pretty Boy Floyd persona and I came back and gave you the Money May persona. I built an empire and a strong team and did my job.”
Mayweather’s main job is to fight, though, and he has no doubt he will fight well enough May 2 to win for the 48th straight time in a pro career that began 19 years ago. He was born into a fighting family, throwing punches almost before he could walk, and he doesn’t seem terribly concerned that Pacquiao could beat him.
Still, he claims he wants to put on a show that fans haven’t always gotten in some of his defensive-minded bouts.
“My mentality in the sport of boxing is to win first always but, of course, you always want to give people their money’s worth,” Mayweather said. “There’s been fights I look at and say I’m not really pleased with that even though I won. We’re pushing ourselves extremely hard. If the fight was today I could go out and perform and look well.”
The gym had cleared out, and after about 20 minutes answering questions in his dressing room, Mayweather was done talking. It was time for a shower, and then it was off to his mansion on a golf course on the outskirts of town.
It was dark outside now, but the worker was still wiping spots off the Ferrari.
Because if there’s one thing Mayweather likes almost as much as winning, it’s a clean ride.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg